the old versus new facebook generation (no, not the layout change)

Very recently more people from my high school years have been finding me on facebook and friending me. When this first started happening, i was wary to accept their requests, mainly because the people who i’m still friends with from my high school i still keep in contact with, so why would i start rekindling interaction with other former high schoolers whose relationship was such that i haven’t seen or talked to them in over a decade and a half? it again felt like it was a degree of voyeurism and a particular sense of artifice that i touched upon when i first joined facebook.

since then, i’ve been much more open about letting any random high school acquiantance or former friend into my… “facebook life” as a self-psychological experiment, which is too complicated to get into with this entry. And since i’ve started doing this, a particular line of thinking has come into my brain having to do with the difference between facebook users of my high school/college generation versus the current high school/college generation.

For me, seeing these faces come back onto my radar in little snippets slowly but continuously feels like a very time-stretched version of the 10-year or 20-year high school reunion – and those sort of reunions have always seemed odd to me. After high school, i don’t hear anything from some of these people and then a decade later, the fact that we went to the same high school and maybe had passing conversations in the hall or were in classes together during a highly developmental time in our lives is supposed to be some sort of relevant “common ground” to shake hands?

One thing that facebook has taught me about this is that at least in an online concept, going through that is not merely not as painful as i thought it would be, it’s actually fun. i’m so fascinated with people and their experiences in general that any excuse to see where people are in their lives and the direction their paths take is awesome and valuable even if they’re strangers, so having some background on even casual acquaintances and where they are now is fascinating. But with some people, i scratch my head as to why they would be interested in anything about *me*; in my head, i’d be thinking, “who are you again?”, or “didn’t we talk maybe twice in the whole time we were in high school?”, or “didn’t you think i was a total loser?”

granted, again, all of us are in different places than we were, and so maybe the reinteraction is a reflection of that.

I’m tangenting again. The point is, people who use fb that are in high school and college now will never have that “stretched out 10-year reunion” sort of feeling. Facebook takes away that potential whether negative or positive to link to a past that was forgotten because facebook makes it much more difficult to create a true “past”. Ten years from now, they’re not going to be suddenly contacted and friended by people that they haven’t heard from in all that time since high school/college. Instead, ten years from now, they would have been casually reading through ten years of status updates, and casually looking at ten years of photos.

i feel like there’s a significant long-term implication about that, and i’m not quite sure what it is. Maybe just that people who are a part of the current fb generation get more of a blur between what their past is to their present. The cynical side of me thinks that this can be problematic. i’m certainly not the same person now than i was in high school, and some of what i put into the past i want to keep in the past. Seeing how people are now after the decade gap is fine because i see them more the way they are now and how they’ve changed, so they don’t feel as much a part of my past as much as a different form and hybrid version of the present. But with people now, what happens when they change, when their lives meander down different paths and they don’t feel connected to the friends that seemed so important to them in those years? Do they defriend them on fb? ignore them?

And that’s another difference between the current internet generation versus the past non-internet generation: before, when people went their separate ways, it was more acceptable to fall out of contact simply because keeping in contact wasn’t an easy task. Now, even when people move to the other side of the world, the internet can keep them connected whether they want to or not, and there’s almost this internet social stigma, a pressure to not lose touch with people who they may only vaguely know or relate to. You defriend someone on facebook and it can cause drama and turn an anthill into a mountain. “why did she defriend me? are we not friends anymore? do i ask? what does it mean? do we no longer say hi when we pass in the hall? do i not call or invite her to a party if i come back into town visiting?” as if the concept of “friend” on facebook or LJ or anywhere in that “slice of life” paradigm actually is necessarily equivalent to a real friend.

For me, i still have a fairly clear understanding that fb is a mere touchpoint of what actual human interaction is supposed to be about. That said, i do accept it more than i used to because honestly it is kind of nice to see what people from my past are up to and how they’ve changed (or maybe it should be more accurate to say how they present themselves as changed). In the long run, though, it can still feel cheap, especially because since i’m not always the greatest at getting back to people nor sometimes being the most organized about important things, fb can make it seem like those shortcomings are amplified, and that may be somewhat true, but some of it is also sijmply that the more people i get exposed to on fb, the more my people energies can potentially get spread too thin.

Originally posted on darkblog resonate.  I welcome any thoughts or comments there.

the evolution of advertising

one of the big reasons i prefer downloading telly on the internet is because rippers will take any adverts out of the downloadable files. Resultingly i haven’t watched a steady stream of telly commercials in about five years, and thus feel outside of that aspect of what i’m calling “advertising culture”. In this context, (call it Television Advertising Culture), even if someone who watches an advert has no interest and only a vague understanding of what the advert is about, they at least still see it, and if they see it often enough, they can at least *identify* it and it becomes as casual common knowledge as the weather.

Even though i’m outside of that direct television advertising culture, i’m still affected by it. i’ve never watched even a snippet of “Survivor”, nor have i ever seen an advert for it, nor do i care to know anything about it given my general loathe of reality telly. Yet i know the basic premise, i understand that the idea of being “voted off the island” comes from it, and i know that the show typically runs on thursday nights – all from word of mouth. And that’s just one example out of millions of telly shows, products, people, etc that are not simply given to promote an immediate sell or immediate gain, it’s a process of immersion, a way of slowly shaping aspects of thought and behaviour.

When the internet started to rise in prominence, early advertising came in the form of large click-banners. Click banners at that time were very straightforward – billboard style advertising that when you clicked brought you to the site and also a) paid the company responsible for the banner ad based on number of clicks, and b) logged information on clicks to either generate new sorts of clicks or sold that click information to other companies to send you more banners or send you spam.

Over the years, banner advertising has evolved and become more sophisticated. Banners that are contextual, banners made in flash that can react to your mouse movements, google’s revolutionary contextual “ad words”. But all of those sorts of advancements still follow the same basic paradigm of “clicks turn into money. clicks will get people to my website.” What those advancements lack is the ability to do what telly adverts do over the long term: create a sense of immersion. Part of that has to do with the nature of the advertising, but part of it has to do with the fact that web surfers are now so used to identifying banners and ad words that they know how to filter it out to grab main content.

Enter facebook.

Facebook has, in my opinion, managed to evolve past the mere click-banner form of advertising. Sure, they still have the basic banner advert on the left hand side of the screen which is generally difficult to completely ignore because the adverts are smart in how they’re generated. But Facebook also has other avenues of advertising both obvious and subtle that aren’t meant to be true click-ads; they’re ads that help create that same sense of immersion that television had full reign of so long ago.

One: Sponsored ads that are intertwined with news feeds. Internet magazine and news sites try to do this too by posting part of an article, then showing some ad links, then continuing with the article. That kinda works, but in that context it’s typically pretty easy to quickly distinguish between what’s article and what’s advert. But aside from a subtle “Sponsored” tag, sponsored adverts in the news feeds look practically identical to regular news feeds making it harder to filter out the content without at least some absorption of the content.

Two: Gifts. When i first signed up on fb, i didn’t understand the concept of fb gifts, but it’s become clearer now that gifts are another form of immersion advertising. A lot of the time, the gifts may be generic virtual objects, but every now and again, fb will make a Brand into a gift – a 7-11 Slurpee on free slurpee day, a little “Wall-E” doll on the weekend of the release of the movie. And it’s clear that gifts are treated that way because while i can remove the gift application from my profile page, i can’t turn notifications off about them on my news feed page.

Three: Becoming a “Fan” There are certainly things that i’m a “fan” of that i like to share with someone else if i think they’d also be interested, but becoming and sharing that you’re a “fan” of something on facebook doesn’t feel like that as much as free immersion advertising instigated by the populace. I’m a fan of Einsturzende Neubaten. If i made that public using facebook’s “fan” concept, it appears on my friends’ News Feeds not just telling them that i’m a fan, but with a promotional picture, a category classification saying that they’re “musicians”, and how many other people on fb are fans of Einturzende. Having only a seed of infomation saying “Mendel Lee is a fan of Einsturzende” will generally either get people to say, “oh cool!” if they also like the music, or have people shrug it off if they have no idea what or who Einsturzende is. But by adding those extra snippets of information, those that don’t know anything about Einsturzende now do. Oh, it’s a band. Mendel likes cool music. And look how many fans there are! Maybe i should check them out. And again – intertwined in the news feeds like the sponsored ads and the gift notifications.

While facebook isn’t as important to me as livejournal for keeping in touch with people, i do go on there on a daily basis to play loose voyeur like everyone else and to play prolific and the biggest brain app, and i’m coming to realize that i am in some degree back in an immersion advertising setting. it’s tricky, and very clever on the part of facebook, and i’m not sure if there’s anything that can be done about it other than deactivating my account – but it’s too late for that. Maybe just the awareness of it will help dull the effects of it all. We’ll see how i feel about it in, say, a year.